School of Natural and Environmental Sciences


Impacts of MPA networks in continental shelf ecosystems

Work package five of the INCOFISH consortium funded by the EU INCO programme in the FP6 framework is examining the role of marine protected areas (MPAs) for fisheries management and biodiversity conservation across large marine ecosystems (LMEs), with the aim of deriving and testing objective criteria for MPA network placement, in the context of the ecosystem approach to management. This is being done through analysis of empirical data on the affects of existing MPAs, and modelling studies of individual MPAs and MPA networks.

 With most fish stocks at historically low levels and many species threatened with extinction there is a need for more effective marine management to ensure conservation of biodiversity and sustainability of living marine resources. MPAs have been proposed as a means of achieving these targets within the context of an ecosystem based approach to management. Developing an understanding of MPA best practice is essential given governmental commitments to establish MPA networks under international fora, such as the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the OSPAR Convention.

It is increasingly clear that MPAs can be an effective means of biodiversity conservation, however their role as the most efficient means of fisheries management is still equivocal, as is their ability to simultaneously act as tools for biodiversity conservation and fisheries management. This study is attempting to identify key elements behind successful MPA sizing and location to develop guidelines for developing MPA networks across whole LMEs with a view to reconciling the demands for biodiversity conservation and efficient fisheries management.